Bob Herbert has a good column today looking back on the last truly turbulent era of politics, the late 60s. This graf captures the promise and the magic of Bobby Kennedy perfectly.
“We discovered in 1968 this deep, almost mystical bond that existed between Robert Kennedy and the Other America. It was a disquieting experience for reporters. ... We were forced to recognize in Watts and Gary and Chimney Rock that the real stake in the American political process involves not the fate of speechwriters and fund-raisers, but the lives of millions of people seeking hope out of despair.”Bob sees the assassination of Bobby Kennedy as a huge turning point, thinking this is the day our hopes died. I think he's wrong about that. It was a surely a bleak day and in some ways the horror of it has never diminished for me in all this time. I sometimes still wonder what the world would have been like had he lived to gain the presidency.
Bobby was a charismatic man who inspired hope, just as his brother did before him, and could have acheived great things, but I don't think we so much lost our hope as we did our innocence, with his death. Perhaps many did lapse into a cynical apathy but for many others of us, it hardened our resolve to keep fighting for the powerless and speak out for voiceless among our fellow Americans.
For myself, hope died the day they appointed George W. Bush president. Nonetheless, my resolve remains steadfast. I'm willing to struggle on without hope of winning rather than surrender without a fight and thanks to the internets, at least it's not so lonely a battle anymore.